Over the years we’ve shared tips on how to celebrate Earth Day by making small changes in your life that can result in meaningful headway in the fight against climate change, such as Simple Tips to Make Your World Greener and 5 Ways to Transform Your Kitchen for Earth Day. This year we’d like to go big and help you find ways to green up your travel so that it transforms into Eco-Travel. We promise that it’s not a big, scary term that will take all the joy out of your vacation. We’ve got simple tips you can follow to leave less of an impact while you adventure around the globe so you can return home guilt-free, enlightened and refreshed.
Let’s start with defining terms, courtesy of this article by Rainforest Alliance. Everyone remembers those signs in hotels that started appearing in the past decade or so telling you to leave your towels on the hooks if you want to re-use them. While that’s a start, if that’s all a hotel is doing then, my friend, that’s just a bit of “green washing.” If a trip is an “eco-tour,” then a main goal is to have minimal impact on the environment while educating travelers and increasing awareness of and respect for the local area. To go one step further, sustainable tourism supports eco-tourism goals while also hiring from the local community, engaging in activities that support and protect the area and minding best practices to preserve the local environment and cultural heritage.
So your first step is to find hotels, adventure packages and activities that follow a sustainable tourism model. Next up is offsetting the amazing amount of carbon generated by all that travel. It’s surprisingly easy these days to pay a small fee to compensate for air travel. Many airlines allow you to pay a carbon offset when you book your flights, or you can choose an established, reputable company unaffiliated with your airline. Though we can all strive to be as virtuous as Greta Thunberg, not everyone has the luxury of forgoing air travel for travel by sea, so this is a great alternative.
Finally, there are lots of small ways to incorporate environmentalism as you vacation. Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle (some even come with a filter!) so that you can skip the plastic. Go off the beaten path and learn about the cultural heritage of the area you are visiting – talk to locals, buy souvenirs made by community artisans instead of mass-produced trinkets, and opt for walking or public transit instead of private cars. One small way to have a big impact is to consult the organization Pack for a Purpose. You can check to see if your destination is one that will accept school supplies or other items that benefit the local community.
You’ll feel good about your travel if you follow these simple steps to have an earth-friendly vacation. With so many awe-inspiring destinations in the world, it’s important that we begin to change how we move about on this planet so that these wonderful sites will be protected for generations to come.